22 Against the Current

“Tom, at this late hour, do you think it’s a good idea to go out hunting demons?” Judah asked. “We should rest and go in the morning. We’ll be stronger and they’ll be weaker….”

“Alright,” Tom said. He very much wanted to go back to the hospital, but instead called Alasdair and asked him to stay the night. Judah’s point was well taken. Tom needed to keep his strength up if they were going to bring this whole situation to an end.

Tom was toweling off in his bathroom when he heard a knock at his bedroom door. “Tom?” David called from his bedroom.

“I’m just finishing up in here, David,” Tom called. Then he wrapped his robe around himself and stepped out. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah,” David said. “But I told Judah he could take my room.”

Tom nodded and smiled. “No problem, buddy,” he said softly. Then he walked to his closet and pulled on pajamas. Then he turned off the light and crawled into bed. David had already made himself comfortable and when Tom rolled onto his back, David scooted over just next to him. “Are you sure everything’s alright, David?”

“Yeah,” the boy repeated. “But … I’m scared,” he added with a whisper.

Tom squeezed him tight. “David, I’m sorry you have to go through this. You boys, and Aiden and all our friends – I’d do anything to protect you if I could.”

“So you’re not going to do what the demon asked, then?” David whispered.

Tom looked into the boy’s eyes and asked, “Who told you?”

“Nobody,” David said, averting his eyes. “I was listening in. They didn’t see me.”

“I’m sorry you heard that,” Tom said. “No, I won’t do what Malphas asks. I can’t!”

“Good,” David answered, surprising Tom. “You can’t put the world in danger for us!”

“A big part of me wants to,” Tom said honestly. “Now whatever happens is my fault.”

NO!” David said. “No.” After that, they lay in silence until troubled sleep came.

Dietrich and Roy pulled up in front of Hal Fuller’s place. “How are we going to approach this?” Roy asked.

“Break and enter,” Dietrich suggested. “This time, masks,” the German added, reaching into a duffle bag he’d brought and drawing out a couple of ski masks. “We don’t want to have to kill everybody.”

“I knew I liked you,” Roy smiled, pulling the mask over his face. Then he checked his gun’s magazine before clicking off the safety and holstering it. “I’ll follow you.”

“Good man,” Dietrich said with a rare smile, going so far as to wink before slipping out of the car. Roy admired the man’s grace as he tried to keep up.

With a small flash, Dietrich had the front door open and the alarm system deactivated. Dietrich whispered, “I’ll take the wife, you control the man and get the information.” Roy nodded and Dietrich led them infallibly to the master bedroom. Dietrich ripped Mrs. Fuller out of the bed before she was awake and held an impossibly sharp blade to her neck.

FULLER!” Roy yelled.

Fuller was jolted and saw the man holding his wife. “WHAT THE FUCK?” Fuller yelled.

SHUT UP!” Roy answered. “If you wake the children, this goes real bad, real fast!” Fuller nodded. “Tell me about your leader!”

“Who?” Fuller asked.

“The grand poobah of your cult,” Roy demanded. “WHO IS HE?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hal said.

“Roger Marx ratted you out,” Roy said, “so stop fucking with me!”

“I … I don’t believe you,” Hal responded.

Dietrich nicked Hal’s wife’s neck and the woman said, “HAL! Tell them!”


Roy took out his gun. “Roger lied to me too, so I shot him. A few times. He talked.”

Hal blanched and said, “He’ll kill me if I talk!”

“I’ll kill you if you don’t,” Roy said. “Just ask Roger!”

I NEVER SAW HIM! MY BROTHER KNOWS WHO HE IS!” Hal yelled. “Just let me and my family go!”

“Hal,” Roy said. “I’ll let your family live. But I know what you’ve done. I know who you are. Why in the world should I let you live? How many of those children did you kill?”

Hal’s wife looked shocked. “Killing children?” she asked with horror.

“Not before raping and torturing them terribly,” Roy said with an acid glare.

“Those weren’t children! Our guy was in his twenties!” Hal yelled.

“What?” Roy asked.

“You haven’t found the new sacrifices?” Hal asked.

“New sacrifices?” Roy demanded.

“Oh, fuck,” the man said, collapsing. “You meant the old ones?”

Roy looked at Dietrich, who nodded. “You’re coming with us,” Roy said, just as Dietrich zapped the man with a spell to knock him out.

“Can you make sure the lady doesn’t call the cops?” Roy asked.

“Jesus Christ,” Hal’s wife whispered. “Kill him when you’re done with him. If he ever comes near my children again, I will!”

“It’s a deal,” Roy said, and Dietrich let her go. Before they could drag her husband away, the woman kicked him hard in the nuts, something to remember her by.

After they shoved the man into the trunk, Roy looked at Dietrich. “Do we have addresses for everyone on Tom’s list?” Dietrich asked.

Roy nodded, and said, “Dick Fletcher, Bill Stevens, and Kim Richards. Why?”

“There’s something else we can do besides exorcising demons to slow this plan down,” Dietrich said. “But Tom wouldn’t like it.”

“Do you have some rubber gloves in that bag of yours?” Roy asked, understanding. They made three more stops before heading back to Tom’s and taking their prisoner to the basement. Then Roy took Hal’s cell and texted his brother, the assistant chief: ‘We need to meet ASAP! Hal’. Dietrich smiled.

“Easier than tracking him down,” Roy said. The men smiled, now brothers in arms.

In the morning, Tom woke early and went to the hospital to visit Aiden, temporarily relieving Alasdair. “What’s going on?” Aiden asked Tom, who hid nothing.

“So we’re going to visit sites left off the list and exorcise a few demons,” Tom said.

“You aren’t going alone?” Aiden asked.

“No, we’ll be going in teams of three,” Tom said.

“Alright,” Aiden said. “Just promise me you’ll be careful?”

“I promise,” Tom said, kissing the man softly. Then they held each other quietly until Alasdair returned. Tom headed home to meet up with his coven and plan their attack.

“So,” he began, “same teams as last night. Be ready … I have a feeling today will see more action,” Tom said.

“But the demons will be less powerful during the day,” Judah reminded.

“Still, we can’t let our guard down,” Tom said.

“There is a complication,” Dietrich said with a quick glance at Roy. “Hal Fuller….”

“Did he give you anything to go on?” Tom asked.

“No,” Dietrich began. “Well, yes, in a manner of speaking…. His brother, the assistant chief, can identify the leader of the cult.”

“That bastard,” Tom said. “I knew it!”

“There’s more,” Roy jumped in. “They did more rituals.”

“When?” Tom asked, horrified.

“This week,” Roy said.

“They’re accelerating!” Tom thought for a minute. “Where were those rituals?”

“We don’t know,” Roy said. “But he’s here, in the basement, all tied up….”


“You didn’t think he volunteered that info, did you Tom?” Roy asked, incredulous.

“Sheesh,” Tom said, walking to the basement door. Downstairs, Tom found the man tied to a chair. He took the gag out and pulled a chair up to Fuller and said, “Let’s talk!”

“Why should I?” Hal asked.

“Because, if you don’t help me stop this, he’s going to kill you,” Tom said.

“Why would he?” Hal asked with a scowl.

“Because you betrayed him, Hal. You told us everything, even about the new sacrifices. I assume he’s getting desperate to fill his demon coven, then?” Tom asked.

Hal snorted derisively. “Your men upstairs will kill me anyway,” Hal said.

“Maybe,” Tom said. “But my guys will be quick. They won’t enjoy it.”

“They’re in the woods. That’s all I know. They took us out there blindfolded. Only the masters of ceremonies know the locations. Well them and the Master,” Hal said.

“Who were the masters of ceremonies?” Tom demanded.

“I only know mine: My brother,” Hal said.

“The assistant chief,” Tom sneered. “He and I have some unfinished business.” Tom replaced the gag and made for the stairs.

“Alright, there’s no hope of finding these new sites in time, so let’s stick with what we know. Let’s see how much damage we can do,” Tom said. “Then I need a word with Hal’s brother, Brian.” He paused and looked at Roy. “Think you can manage tracking him down?”

“It’s what I do,” Roy said with a smile.

DO NOT APPROACH HIM, ROY!” Tom warned. “He’s a very dangerous warlock!”

“I’m a believer,” Roy said, holding his hands up. “I’ll leave that for you boys!” Dietrich smirked at him with raised eyebrows and Roy tried to repress his smile.

“And for God’s sake, Misha, Alexa, keep the boys and Aiden’s parents away from the fucking basement!” Tom said. Before he left, Tom made a quick call to check in with Elise and Shirit to make sure all was well with Sebastien’s family.

Late in the morning, Chief Pryce received an urgent call from the station. “Sorry to bother you Chief,” the desk sergeant said, “but Assistant Chief Fuller did not report this morning. His wife says he never showed up at home last night.”

Pryce said, “Put out an APB for his car. I’m on my way. Is Captain Phillips there?”

“Yes, sir,” the man replied.

“He’s in charge until I get there, and let me know if Brian turns up,” Pryce said, hanging up. Turning to his wife, he said, “Trouble at the station, I don’t know when I’ll be back!”

“Is it a vandalism?” the woman asked, looking up from her morning paper.

“No,” he said, “Brian Fuller’s disappeared….”

OH!” she said. “Do let me know when you’ll be back. And be careful,” she said.

He kissed the woman on the cheek and said, “I will. Promise!”

Dietrich, Judah and Avram sat outside Smithson Elementary School. “It’s Thursday morning on a school day. What are we supposed to do?” Judah said, throwing his hands in the air.

“Nothing,” Avram said. “We’ll have to wait!”

“The children!” Judah said. “If there’s a demon, who knows what it’s doing to them?”

Dietrich leaned forward and said, “If we go in and set off a demon, we put the children in more immediate danger.”

Avram sighed. “Where was the vandalism?”

“Playground,” Judah said. “And since they’re place-bound….”

Judah looked over his shoulder and said, “Do you have your credentials?”

“Yes,” Dietrich said. “What do we need?”

“Environmental Protection Agency,” Avram said.

Judah watched as Dietrich pulled out a folder full of identification and found one identifying him as Johan Flood of the EPA. “What’s the plan?” Judah asked.

“Let me do the talking,” Avram said. “And follow us.”

Avram and Dietrich took the lead and marched into the school with an air of authority. They walked into the office and stood, waiting for the secretary to acknowledge them.

“Can I help you?” the mousy woman asked.

“I need to speak to the principal,” Avram said in nearly-unaccented English.

“Can I say who’s asking, sir?” she asked, a bit unnerved.

Judah nodded to Dietrich who flipped out his identification. Avram said, “Agents Todd and Flood, Environmental Protection Agency.”

The woman nervously picked up the phone. “Mr. Grant, there are some agents here to see you…. EPA, sir….”

The principal hurried out and shook hands with the men. Avram said, “We’ve recently got disturbing readings from this area and we want to make sure your children remain safe.”

“Of course,” the man stammered. “We’ll cooperate in any way you require!”

Avram smiled. “I need you to instruct your teachers to keep students off the playground until our tests are complete. Keep them inside for recess, perhaps the gym?”

“Of course,” Principal Grant replied. “Anything else?”

“Tell me, Mr. Grant,” Judah began, “have you noticed any behavioral issues in the last few weeks?”

“Nothing serious,” the man said. “A few fights on the playground between students I wouldn’t have suspected…. You don’t think?”

Avram smiled and said, “It’s probably nothing, but it’s something to keep in mind!”

The principal nodded and asked, “Do you need me to show you the way?”

“No,” Avram said, shaking Grant’s hand. “We’ll let you know what we find.”

The three men walked through the school and out the back exit into the fenced-in playground. Avram turned to Dietrich and said, “Take care of these windows.”

Dietrich quickly and expertly cast a spell to obscure the view of the playground from inside. No one would see what was about to happen. Judah looked at Avram and asked, “Have you sensed anything out of the ordinary?”

“Not yet,” Avram admitted. Then he pointed to the far fence and said, “That’s where the blood was….” The two men walked over toward that area, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, with Dietrich bringing up the rear.

“I don’t feel,” Dietrich began, but was cut off.

“None of you feel anything, you hairless apes,” a deep but nasal voice half-growled, half-croaked. “For all your precious ‘minds’ and your acute ‘senses’, you’re as dull as the mud from which you were drawn!”

“Down, Dietrich,” Judah yelled as he turned and raised his hand, raising a protective barrier just in time to shield them from the demon’s wrath. Yellow flame poured off the invisible shield like liquid, running down and poisoning the earth. The grass withered as the hellish substance spread.

“You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?” Judah asked, as Avram helped Dietrich to his feet.

“I’d rather hoped not,” the demon sneered. “It’s been a long time since I had a good fight. Children on the playground cannot sate my appetite for violence, it turns out.” The demon was in the form of a man, perhaps seven feet tall. His skin and hair, like his clothing, shined metallic. When he stood still, he looked like a great, bronze statue of some ancient general. He would have been handsome were his features not so plastic, and his eyes glowed with delight at the little battle that was brewing.

“There will be no fight,” Judah said. “You are nothing to us!”

“Rabbi! Why the bravado?” the demon teased, circling them like a beast of prey.

“It is not bravado, demon,” Avram said. “But faith in the one we serve. Where is your master? Where is your defense, fallen spirit?”

HE IS COMING, LITTLE MAN,” the demon smiled. “And when he comes, all hope will be lost. All faith will crumble. Your god will weep for you!”

“Who is coming?” Judah asked. “If he is so powerful, tell me his name. Are you afraid?”

The demon laughed. “Oh no, Rabbi! Half the fun will be in the shock of the day of his coming. But … what’s the harm in a little hint? ‘Et puer parvulus minabit eos!’” Judah looked at Avram and they both committed it to memory.

“Tell me his name, demon, or tell me yours! There are no options!” Avram boomed.

“And if I tell you his, you’ll leave me in peace with these children?” the demon sneered. “I thought not!”

Judah stepped forward and held out his right hand and began to chant: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

“Where was your god when your people suffered?” the metallic humanoid taunted.

Avram picked up the response, “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

“Yes, yes!” the demon cackled. “He will deliver you! Trust in him! Stand aside and see whether your god will stop us! If you have such faith, why do you fight so hard?”

Judah continued, his hand glowing bright, “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flies by day; nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness; nor for the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee…. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.”

Now showing visible discomfort, the demon writhed in agony as he cried, “Evil SHALL befall thee, rabbi! Evil the likes of which you have never known! The great deceiver shall lay his hand upon you; he already knows you. HE KNOWS YOUR NAME, RABBI!”

Avram continued, “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”

The demon raged, “Every last one of you will curse your birth as we feast on your sins!”

TELL ME YOUR NAME!” Judah demanded, the light emanating from his hand reaching a blinding intensity.

MY NAME,” the demon yelled, snarling, “IS GUSION!”

“In the name of the most high God, El Elyon, Adonai Sabaoth, the rock and redeemer of Israel, I cast you out, unclean spirit, you perverse demon, Gusion. Return to the pit, and to your place, to face the everlasting torment allotted you!” Avram commanded.

With a howl, and a snap, the demon disappeared, and the shock wave rattled windows through the neighborhood and knocked the three men on their asses.

Dietrich laughed and looked at Avram. “That was easy!”

“Yes, well, it’s daylight, and the two of us can handle it,” Judah said, looking at Avram. “As they say in TV, ‘Don’t try this at home!’“

“Indeed,” Dietrich nodded.

Meanwhile, across town, Tom, along with Cho and Father Tim, arrived at an abandoned warehouse. “This doesn’t fit the profile,” Tom said. “This isn’t a holy site, or a place with access to people to torment,” Tom mused.

“Shall we check it out or move on?” Tim asked.

“Let’s go,” Tom said. “We need to make good time.”

As they pulled away, the demon inside could sense them traveling away, and he smiled to himself. ‘Foolish mortals,’ he thought to himself. ‘So little imagination….’

Tom’s phone rang. “Hello?”

“Tom, it’s Judah. We got one.”

“Thank God. What was his name?” Tom asked.

Judah said, “This one was Gusion….”

“It just doesn’t make any sense! Why aren’t they raising big boys?” Tom asked. “I mean, they raised Malphas. You’d think he’d want heavy hitters….”

“Who knows how long it took them to raise Malphas?” Avram chimed in. “They don’t have the time to repeat that over and over, and they couldn’t hide that many murders.”

“Yeah, but Gusion?” Tom demanded. “Surely….”

“What, Tom?” Judah asked.

“What if … what if whatever he’s after is worse?” Tom wondered.

“What could be worse than Malphas’s brother princes?” Judah asked.

“You mean besides their rulers?” Tom asked sarcastically. “That question might just be the one we have to answer! Let’s meet back at the house at four. I think the evening will be best spent researching.”

“Gusion did wave a hint in front of our faces, Tom,” Judah said. “He said, ‘Et puer parvulus minabit eos!’”

“Creepy,” Tom said.

“What does it mean?” Judah asked.

“And a little child shall lead them,” Tom said.

“Why is that less than comforting?” Judah posed with a chill. “We’ll get on that too!”

“I’ve got to go out tonight,” Tom reminded him.

“Go out?” Judah asked.

“It’s a school thing … that Gay Straight Alliance meeting. I promised,” Tom said.

“Alright,” Judah said. “The rest of us can get on with this then!”

“Thanks,” Tom said, hanging up, as they drove on their way.

“What are you doing here?” the cult leader whispered.

“The rabbi exorcised Gusion from the elementary school this morning,” the demon snarled. “Corman missed Corlew, but found Draunton! We cannot continue at this pace! Tonight we must send people in ones and twos if we are to succeed in the appointed time!”

“Too risky,” the cultist insisted. “And I haven’t been able to get in touch with Fuller and some of the others….”

Malphas said, “Marx, Fletcher, Stevens, and Richards are dead. Hal Fuller disappeared.”

“Dead?” the leader demanded. “Did the demon lords…?”

“No,” Malphas laughed. “Impotent! Corman’s people did it!”

“We can have them arrested,” the leader said brightly.

“No,” Malphas said. “You’ll find no evidence, and we don’t need outside attention.”

“I can’t believe they,” the leader began. “What do you mean Hal disappeared?”

“He is not dead, but I cannot locate him,” Malphas said, shrugging. “I assume that means he’s being held somewhere against his will.”

“That means all my best are out,” the leader said. “You can’t expect underlings to….”

“That IS EXACTLY WHAT I EXPECT,” Malphas growled. “You don’t need skill when you’re harnessing the kind of power a human sacrifice offers! Now tell them to take children. Use their own children. I DON’T CARE!”

“Yes, my lord,” the leader nodded, and the demon disappeared in a flame, leaving only the light smell of smoke and sulfur behind. “Shit,” the man muttered to himself, pulling out a private throw-away cell phone. He called to the most ruthless of his newer followers, and most were happy to get into the big times.

Deep in the bowels of hell, a conference was underway. Around a large table carved from obsidian-like stone sat Moloch, Adramelech, Lilith, and Beelzebub, as well as a handful of others. At the head, draped in shadows, none of his features visible, was a figure known by many names, including Satan, Lucifer, and the devil. Not even the most powerful demon at the table had seen his face in an eon.

“What is Malphas’s game?” asked the demon Asmodeus.

“You know whom he wants to release,” Beelzebub said with a refined, dismissive tone.

“Yes, but why? We all know what he is!” Lucifuge Rofocale demanded. “I know Malphas was impatient for our time, but this is madness!”

“Of course it is madness,” Lilith said. “The effort we put into locking the abomination away left us weak for a thousand years! It gave the mortal world untold relief!”

“Malphas has broken faith with me,” the devil said, his voice as sweet as honey. “He came to believe after the longest of time that I was not fit to lead the coming war, that IT alone could give us victory. Malphas asked me to release the ABOMINATION. When I told him no, I suppose he concocted this plan, and recruited humans to release and serve him. It was brilliant, really….”

“My Lord,” Beelzebub began, his head low, “what shall we do?”

“What can we do?” the devil asked with a smile. “He is free, and we are bound.”

“But we cannot simply allow,” Lilith began.

The devil looked to Beelzebub and said, “We must seek human assistance, too, my friend. You know what to do?”

“Yes my Lord,” Beelzebub declared. “Yes….”